Sultan Qaboos University
Department of Soils, Water & Agricultural Engineering
Ministry of Regional Municipalities & Water Resources
Water Cooperation
Towards Resources Sustainability
Shared Waters: Conflict and Cooperation
Prof. Aaron T. Wolf
College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences
Oregon State University
Water is an eloquent advocate for reason. Admiral Lewis Strauss.
Water management is, by definition, conflict management: Water,
unlike other scarce, consumable resources, is used to fuel all facets of society,
from biologies to economies to aesthetics and spiritual practice. Moreover, it
fluctuates wildly in space and time, its management is usually fragmented,
and it is often subject to vague, arcane, and/or contradictory legal principles.
As such, there is no such thing as managing water for a single purpose – all
water management is multi-objective and based on navigating competing
Within a nation these interests include domestic users,
agriculturalists, hydropower generators, recreators, and environmentalists –
any two of which are regularly at odds, and the complexity of finding
mutually acceptable solutions increases exponentially as more stakeholders
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are involved. Add international boundaries, and the difficulty grows
substantially yet again.
While press reports of international waters often focus on conflict,
what has been more encouraging is that, throughout the world, water also
induces cooperation, even in particularly hostile basins, and even as disputes
rage over other issues. This has been true from the Jordan (Arabs and
Israelis) to the Indus (Indians and Pakistanis) to the Kura-Araks (Georgians,
Armenians, and Azeris). Despite research that finds repeatedly and
empirically that water-related cooperation overwhelms conflict over the last
fifty years (see, most recently, Wolf et al. 2003), prevailing theories fail to
explain this phenomenon. Certainly, there is a long history of conflicts over,
or related to, shared freshwater resources. But there is also a long, and in
many ways deeper, history of water-related cooperation. Why do countries
that share a basin cooperate on water, even when they will not cooperate
over other issues? Here is a resource on which we all depend, which
fluctuates wildly in space and time, and for which there is little guidance in
international law. By any quantitative measure, water should be the most
conflictive of resources, not an elixir that drives enemies to craft functioning
and resilient institutional arrangements.
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Challenges of Water Security in the GCC Countries
Prof. Waleed K Al-Zubari
Director, Water Resources Management Program, College of Graduate
Studies, Arabian Gulf University
Situated in extremely arid zones, the GCC countries have an
extremely poor endowment of water resources; they have one of the lowest
per capita freshwater availability in the world (less than 150 m3/capita/yr),
and are considered one of the world’s most water-stressed region. The
countries are currently facing enormous challenges in the management of the
water sector to ensure its sustainability in serving their socio-economic
development objectives, and are facing a future of continuously widening
demand-supply gap, rapidly declining per capita water availability, and an
overall increase in water scarcity. The dilemma arises from escalating water
demands, which are the result of high population/urbanization growth and
agricultural policies, exaggerated by a number of unsustainable uses and
conditions, such as low water use efficiency, increasing economic and
environmental costs of water production and distribution, and deterioration
of water quality and land productivity, in conjunction with the fact that these
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countries are already over-exploiting all of their water resources. This
situation is crucial and carries high risks, with implications not only for the
countries future development, but also for the sustainability of their past
economic and social achievements.
Unlike Food security, there is no clear and exact definition for the
term “water security”; its meaning spans over a number of multiple and often
competing definitions, from securing water rights in shared water resources,
to securing water supplies for people and ecosystems, to protecting water
supply from adversarial actions, to a broader, holistic concept that looks at
water security within the framework of sustainable development. The latter
definition, while considers all the former definitions as its components, looks
at a much higher level of objectives to achieve “sustainable water
management”. It addresses water security challenges from a sustainability
perspective, and advocates solutions at a higher societal level, such as
improvement of governance and management approaches, institutional and
societal capacity development, and investments in R&D and technology
indigenization. From this perspective, sustainable water management is
defined for the GCC countries as “providing water in sufficient quantity and
adequate quality to the various developmental sectors with minimum
economic, social and environmental costs; to achieve maximum societal
benefits and added value of water use; and to contribute to the overall
national development on the long term.” The level of water security in a
region/country/society is determined by three environments; the “hydrologic
environment” (i.e., water resources availability and their spatial and temporal
variability), the “socio-economic environment” (i.e., institutions, governance,
policies, users behavior, and resilience), and the future environment (i.e.,
climate change, demographics, technological advances). Currently, all these
environments in the GCC countries are unfavorable and are constraining the
achievement of water security; sustaining water supply in the GCC countries,
though at enormous economic and environmental costs, is made possible
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only due to the high financial and energy capabilities of these countries,
which is not guaranteed in the future.
Moreover, an analysis of the driving forces and pressures exerted on
the water sector in these countries (i.e., population growth, economic growth
policies, prevailing general subsidy and welfare system, and agricultural
policies) indicates that they are beyond the control domain of the water
sector, and exist at the national policy formulation and decision making
levels. In other words, facing current and future water security challenges in
the GCC countries will require interventions at the national level, rather than
at the water sector level, with radical change in the socio-economic
environment prevailing in these countries, and more importantly, improving
the water governance system to shift the attitude of society from being part
of the problem to part of the solution. In this regard, water cooperation at all
levels, between the GCC countries and between the various stakeholders at
the national level, becomes imperative to face the current and future water
security challenges.
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Who determines the demand for food and who manages water?
Prof. Tony Allan
King’s College London
The purpose of the presentation is to highlight the role of the
demand for food on whether society can manage sustainably the water
resources on which food security depends. Food consumers determine the
demand for food. Many market players ensure that this demand is met by
short and sometimes by very long global food supply chains. These supply
chains link farmers, the ag-industries that supply inputs such as seeds,
fertilizers, pesticides and equipment, the food traders, the food
manufacturers as well as those who retail it. 90% of the water used by society
is embedded in these food supply chains. The presentation will highlight the
importance of the food choices of consumers. Their wasteful practices will be
noted as well as those of others that squander strategic volumes of water and
energy along food supply chains. Society must enable farmers to be good
stewards of water. A first step is to understand the role of food supply chains.
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Farmers’ Cooperation: Beyond Aflaj Management
Prof. Slim Zekri
Department of Natural Resource Economics
College of Agriculture and Marine Sciences
Sultan Qaboos University
Traditional Aflaj systems are an excellent example of farmers’ ability
to cooperate and sustain agricultural and domestic water services for rural
communities. From an engineering perspective Aflaj are characterized by
simple low maintenance cost technology. Clear water laws and regulations
have been followed rigorously for more than 1000 years. Management is well
organized and institutionalized in the form of a manager and maintenance
staff. Water markets marginally allocate water to the highest value needs
within the farms and returns from water markets are used to cover operating
and maintenance costs. Despite the complexity and sophistication of the Aflaj
systems, there has been no evolution to respond to the recent trends of
urbanization and the subsequent increase of urban water demand. Besides,
no innovations have been observed within the oases to conserve water. We
discuss the requisites for a better water management both from a
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technological and institutional point of view and we call for a higher
integration of the urban water agricultural water. We use Aflaj water market
process and tertiary treated water costs and urban water prices to show the
possible transactions to maximize the society’s utility and ensure water
sustainability through cooperation among stakeholders and to focus on public
awareness and relation to water.
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Chronological Review of Water Conflicts in the World
Dr. Hayder A. Abdel Rahman
Associate Professor
Department of Soils, Water and Agricutural Engineering
College of Agricultural and Marine Sciences
Sultan Qaboos University
Water is essential for supporting life meeting basic needs,
safeguarding public health, protecting the environment and supporting
agriculture industry as well as other human activities such as recreational
activities. Various challenges of water resource management have been
identified as the main source of conflicts. The most fundamental source of
conflict is water scarcity in terms of quantity and quality. The problem is
driven by high demands for water due to rapid population growth and high
living standards in urban areas. Water conflicts are also related to planed or
unplanned changes in water management schemes such as development
projects and control structures (dams) leading to environmental concerns,
watercourse diversions, water, pollution inadequate institutional and
legislative frameworks among other causes. The competition between
surface and groundwater is interchangeable; development of catchment
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areas or diversions could reduce rate of groundwater recharge and over
pumping of groundwater could deplete the springs. Some believe that Water
scarcity is an issue exacerbated by demographic pressures, climate change
and pollution and that the world's water supplies could guarantee every
member of the population to cover their personal and domestic needs.
Thomas Malthus, an eighteenth century British clergyman and author
believed that: "The power of population is so superior to the power of the
earth to produce subsistence for man, that premature death must in some
shape or other visit the human race." In other words, more people and scant
resources will invariably lead to discord and violence. Water often is treated
as a commodity, as an instrument with which one population group can
suppress another. It has been a cause and a tool in disputes and wars.
There are 261 trans-boundary rivers covering almost half of the land
surface of the earth and over 150 water-related treaties worldwide. Around
49 of those delineate water allocation between nations, nine simply dividing
water equally and the rest with specific volume allocations.
Chronologically experts believe that the first documented case of a
"water war" happened about 4,500 years ago, when the city-states of Lagash
and Umma went to war in the Tigris-Euphrates basin. Modern history has
already seen at least two water wars. In 1503 Leonardo da Vinci and
Machievelli in Florence planned to divert Arno River away from Pisa. From
1947 onwards Bangladesh and India have been involved in development
disputes and Control of Ganges water resources. Since 1948, Israel has been
involved into conflicts with the Arabs (Jordan and Syria) of water control.
Senegal and Mauritania fought a war starting in 1989 over grazing rights on
the River Senegal. In 2000 Namibia, Botswana and Zambia disputed over
border and access to water, a case presented to the International Court of
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Mechanisms of resolving conflict could be categorized as social
(Community/tribe leaders and influential people), institutional (Water user
Organizations special institutions or committees, Arbitrations), legal
(Customary rules, International Court) and financial (Water tariffs/service
charges and water markets). Other means of conflict resolutions should be
thought of, such as allocations by time, prioritizing use and protecting
downstream rights.
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Water Legislation and
Its Role in Water Resources Management
in the Sultanate Of Oman
Eng. Nasser Al-Husni
Director of Water Permits Department
Ministry of Regional Municipalities and Water Resources
Water resources are distinct strategic importance may outweigh the
rest of the economic resources of wealth, where it is the cornerstone in the
development of agricultural and industrial activity and economic
development. Management of water resources is a constant challenge in the
Sultanate of Oman; being one of the countries that suffer from water scarcity
ratio falling within the scope of the arid regions characterized by instability of
the water situation and the scarcity of rainfall. Due to the lack of rainfall,
which is the main source of the water cycle in the Sultanate compared
increasing demand for water and the high rate of consumption of
underground water has become the water deficit is a reality in many regions.
This is represented in the fall groundwater level, quality degradation and
drought in many springs and wells and also seawater intrusion in aquifers
adjacent to the coast.
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Where annual rainfall rates vary on the Sultanate from one area to
another, while it is far less than (100 mm) in the interior areas especially the
desert, it has been up to (340 mm) in the mountains. The high demand,
limited water sources and little rainfall factors lead to the need to manage
the demand of the water resources. Hence the need to develop water
legislation, which aims to use all available water resources in the way that we
go back to the greatest sustainable benefits and to ensure sustainability for
future generations, taking into account the possibility to meet the needs and
aspirations of current and future needs. Considering the importance of water
wealth as the essential foundation for the development, royal decrees and
ministerial decisions were issued, which are commensurate with the situation
at each stage, in addition to a number of projects and studies and water plans
were set up and held in the water resources sector, which ensures its
sustainability and meet the basic needs of the desired.
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Oman Water Society and
Its Expected Role in Water Cooperation
Rashid Yahya Al Abri
Scientific Committee Member
PhD Student, Earth Science Department
Sultan Qaboos University
Oman water Society is a non-government organization established
in April 2010 and one of its aims is to stabilize the correct concepts concern
with water issues for all society components and works as liaison
entity between the public from one side and the different government units
concern with water and the private sector from the other side. Since it was
established, several activities were being carried out and have varied
between the conferences, seminars, lectures and workshops in addition of its
vital participation in many different events in and outside the sultanate. In
order to achieve the goals of the society, a practical structure had been
adopted with three main committees, scientific, information and awareness
and activities. All the activities which will be mentioned in the presentation
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which will be delivered in world water day symposium aimed to raise the
awareness by the importance of water conservation concepts and the
necessity of participation of all society components to play their own roles
and duties in this regard. The positive and overwhelming response from the
government units and the private sector as well as from the public led the
society to play an important and distinctive leading role to clarify the utmost
importance of water wealth conservation and the need of different society
components cooperation
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